transferred to San Francisco State University, Emo Loredo
knew only a few other openly gay students.
So he was
pleasantly surprised when he discovered his new college
offered not only dozens of classes on gay issues but
an undergraduate minor in lesbian, gay, bisexual and
''One of the
things I've learned is that homosexuality was around way
back in ancient times,'' said Loredo, 24, who enrolled this
semester in a sociology class called Queer Cultures
and Society. ''Before, I thought homosexuality was
started in the early 1970s.''
creating a smattering of gay-related classes, more than two
dozen American universities are now offering full-fledged
minors in gay studies and expanding the field to
include disciplines across the college curriculum.
Issues such as
same-sex marriage and gays in the military have fueled
interest in the programs, which have been established, among
other places, at Ivy League institutions Yale and
Cornell and DePaul University in Chicago, one of the
nation's largest Catholic schools.
At least 30
public and private colleges now offer multidiscipline minors
in gay studies, the majority of them started in the last
three years. Another 16 schools let undergraduates
earn certificates or pursue concentrated studies in
State was one of the first U.S. schools to explore the
scholarly potential of gay subject matter, starting with a
single English course in 1972. Now students can choose
from classes such as Homophobia and Coming Out, Gay
Love in Literature, and Queer Art History.
around the nation, expanded course offerings have also given
a discipline once limited to history, English, or women's
studies departments a place across the academic
curriculum, encompassing subjects such as religion and
John G. Younger,
a University of Kansas professor who maintains a Web
site devoted to gay studies, said Duke University even
offered an anthropology course on ''queerness in
The rise of
specialized degree programs has been driven by endowments
from gay alumni, the research of openly gay professors, and
demands from students who are coming out of the closet
at younger ages, experts say.
Steven Seidman, a
sociologist at the State University of New York at
Albany, said he has also observed a shift in the kind of
students who take gay studies classes.
In the past, the
courses drew primarily straight women and a handful of
gay or lesbian students, almost all of them white. Now the
classes attract young scholars of varying races who
often refuse to accept traditional labels of sexual
orientation and gender, according to Seidman.
There is no
giggling, no debate about whether homosexuality is normal,
and no discussion of whether gays should have rights, he
At San Francisco
State, sociology professor Jennifer Reck said she had 55
students vying to get into the same class that Loredo took.
She had to turn at least 10 away.
On the first day,
she asked students to share why they enrolled, even if
it was only to fulfill a social science requirement or
because the time fit their schedules. Three
acknowledged falling into that category.
varied among the rest.
Tony Foster, 41,
said he was looking for material for his master's thesis
on graphic design and civil disobedience. Patricia Chiquet,
23, an international student from Switzerland, said
she was fascinated by the subject of sex-change
24, who moved from the Bible Belt five years ago and
became the nanny for the child of a lesbian couple, said she
wanted to help fight discrimination against same-sex
couples and educate her own relatives.
who directs San Francisco State's program, envisions a
time when gay studies is no longer a distinct academic
To some extent,
that's already happening, he said. Many schools, rather
than offering a degree in gay studies, have added
gay-related courses under an umbrella of new programs
looking broadly at human sexuality. In some cases
heterosexuality is being debated as a construct that is as
much social as biological.
travels the country advising professors on how to gain
approval for gay studies programs, said he stopped counting
the number of schools that offer classes in lesbian
literature or gay history.
thinking maybe it's useless to keep this list because every
university probably has something,'' he said. (Lisa Leff,